Based on a story that is at least ostensibly true, American Sniper follows the transformation of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) from rodeo cowboy to wartime legend to troubled family man. Along the way he kills at least 160 people, earning the dubious honour of most lethal sniper in US military history – but don’t worry, everyone he killed was an “evil savage” so don’t come here with your pansy liberal ideas like ‘empathy’ or ‘conscience’. American Sniper does not have time to worry about stuff like that, which is probably why it’s so concerned with sanctifying American sadism while dehumanising the Iraqi people; refusing to consider any person might be more than just a killer set on vaguely defined “evil” as if by genetic predisposition.
Maybe if you could completely divorce American Sniper from the reality around it – let’s say if it were a transmission from a parallel world where the war in Iraq was legal or justified, if Chris Kyle never wrote shit like “I hate those damn savages. I couldn’t give a flying fuck about Iraqis,” and if the film’s release didn’t inspire a noted upswing in violent threats against American Muslims – American Sniper would be an okay film. Not great cinema, certainly nothing deserving much attention at the Oscars, but okay — a little below average. The actors all do well enough with what they’re given, Eastwood’s direction is unambitious but sure handed, and there’s tense moments early on and some humanity for Kyle towards the end.
Unfortunately for us, though, we live in reality, and the reality American Sniper represents is far uglier than it seems to realise. Seen with context, this film is much less than ‘okay’. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s a piece of shit and its Oscar nominations are the turds in the crown of one of the least diverse, most establishment-centric Academy Award season in a while. It is a damning portrayal of the Western imperialist mindset that’s too dumb to realise all it’s good for, and a depressing reminder of just how much Hollywood remains the mouthpiece of the US elite.